Evolving Away from Darwin

In my writings, I have been unfair to Darwin. It’s not that I have criticized this city, it’s that I haven’t written about it. But I have the somewhat legitimate excuse of being rather busy.

During my first week here, I hunted for jobs. That was pretty much all I did. Tracking down leads here and there, visiting temp agencies and tracking down more leads was my introduction to the Northern Territory’s capital. And all that had us get off on the wrong foot. (Although the offer I got to work on a fishing boat for a couple months was intriguing.)

When I arrived, I was staying with some generous residents whom I met online and their place was a good half hour walk out of town along the Stuart Highway. Each morning, I woke and ambled into town along a long stretch of road that keenly reminded me of the smaller cities of Alberta, and that’s not exactly a compliment. Used car lot after used car lot lined the highway and drilled a heavy message into my mind as I passed: “You are no longer in Asia.”

At the time, that was not a reality I was eager to face. I’ve grown accustomed to Asia and its many weird ways. The first world now sometimes feels like a second home. But, being that I was in Australia and not my real home, it was all the more confusing. “This is a lot like home. Canada home. But then again, what’s with all the didgeridoos?” Job hunting, used car lots, tourist-marketed didgeridoos, and a wee bit of culture shock welcomed me to Australia.

While job hunting, however, I happened to make a strange discovery: back in Calgary, my true, first home, there was a job opening that would be perfect for me. When I passed along the web page to Sarah to note the irony of having to come to Australia to find a great job in Calgary, she remarked, “You could do that in your sleep.” But the thing was, I wouldn’t want to sleep through this job – if I did, I would be missing out on a lot of fun and education.

I won’t go into the specifics of the job here, but I genuinely thing that it was made for me and I for it. The mutual benefits of uniting the two of us would be almost obscene. So, I decided, why not? Let’s throw a resume their way and see what happens.

Strangely enough, the next day I was offered a job in Australia. A much less interesting job to be sure, but a job nonetheless. Given the emaciated state of my wallet and a potentially long-term stay in the land down under, I jumped at the opportunity.

By this point I had moved through a couple hostels. I happened to be homeless in Darwin on the busiest weekend of the year and finding a bed for a night proved to be a challenge. Finding one for consecutive nights proved to be just plain silly. Anyone making such demands had to have been the product of an upbringing that neglected to instill the dangers of greed. But my avarice for sleep pushed me on and I was fortunate enough to find a place that would house me and keep me well fed on a diet of feet stink (one of the main food groups of the dorm resident).

During the nights, I fought the snorers, but the days started to pick up. I got to explore the Mindil beach market and enjoy some genuinely refreshing air. Compared to my previous destination, Bangkok, the air of Darwin is a lot less brown. Darwin is to happily flowing blood as Bangkok is to malignant, festering tumors in your lungs. I wish I had the opportunity to explore further afield of Darwin to see the Kakadu and Lichfield, but I will just use that as a fantastic excuse to come back.

I did get to explore the city a little but not nearly as much as I would have liked. The hopping Mitchell Street and the quiet Esplanade both made for a decent walk. I headed up to the East Point Reserve in the hopes of sighting a wallaby, but they remained elusive. But that stroll took me along the comically named (for Brits anyway) Fannie Bay. Oh, and sunsets on the beach that would make even Dick Cheney weep (engine oil of some kind I’m sure).

And I met a few fine folks and had a few good chats. I played pool with a couple of charming girls from Japan. I got in on Australia’s national sport of teasing with my roommates. And I whiled away the workdays with some fun co-workers.

Speaking of co-workers, they were the only genuinely enjoyable part of my temporary job. I was doing data entry for a call centre that was busy taking technical support requests for the telecommunications troubles all over the Northern Territory. My role was to make sure each job was logged properly after it had been resolved. Make sure this box is filled out and that box is checked. And so on. Forever. Until the end of time. And the forever again.

But I made the best of the stultifying work and very much appreciated the chance to make some cash.

Interestingly enough, midway through the week, I received an email from the potential employer in Calgary that I mentioned before. The one with the job I would step over dying old ladies for. They were interested in chatting with me and wanted to know when I would be back in Canada.

Well, I had already been considering making my way back home, so I pretty much told them it would be as soon as I was able to book a ticket. And off I went to sort out my way back.

With all the possible routes back home, it turned out to be going the long way around the world that was the most economical and that would get me back in Calgary the earliest. Busy, expensive flights prevented me from going the more direct route over the Pacific. Instead, I am now headed through Singapore, then London, then home. Yes, London.

Had I only known that at the very time I was booking my ticket, terrorists were being arrested in the UK, I would have happily paid more to steer clear of a trip through England. But as you travel, you get behind on the news. Tragically behind.

And so, with a London-bound itinerary in my pocket, I now sit in the overly-airconditioned Darwin airport waiting for my 3:30 am flight to Singapore. And I’m feeling remarkably cogent for this time of night (considering how bad the snoring has been in my dorm). I have no idea for exactly how long I will be travelling. It’s Friday night here. It will be Monday afternoon when I get home. Factor in some time zones and I think it comes out to way too bloody long.

If there happened to be a chicken I could sacrifice or some nearby idol I could supplicate, I would do it in the hopes that I will have such peaceful flights that they lull me to sleep for their duration. Thankfully, my stop in London includes a visit with Caroline whose home will provide me with a much-needed rest stop before I embark on the final leg of my trip.

A fellow traveler recently reminded me of a dear, old poem by Robert Frost whose conclusion reads, “And miles to go before I sleep…” Both its literal and metaphorical meanings seem appropriate right now as a begin another journey. Look it up, it’s a good one.

I’m Not Dead

Just thought I would let you know that I am alive and well in Australia. I’m here in Darwin where I have been suffering from a bit of sticker shock after being in Southeast Asia. Internet access, for example, costs four or five times as much here, so I haven’t been online nearly as much. Once I work my way back into first-world prices, I’ll be more content to post a bit more.

The last week has mostly been spent job hunting and adjusting to all these white people speaking English to me. For the former, I’ve found a temp job that starts next week and for the latter, the quirky Aussie accent is sometimes weird enough that I can pretend people are speaking a foreign language to me, so it works out well enough.

After departing my lovely little private room that I obtained through some contacts I made before coming here, I now have been relegated to the land of dorms when other house guests took my spot. After last night’s endless snoring competition, I’m hoping that the fatigue I have saved up will let me sleep through the worst of the din tonight. I’m at a new hostel and I have fewer people in my room, so I’m hoping I may serve as a participant in the contest tonight and not just a listener.

Continent Number Six

Since I forgot to mention it before, I shall now: I’m going to Australia! Though this was no secret before, it wasn’t official. But since I now have my flights booked and a place to stay once I arrive, I’m going to call this one a done deal.

On July 30th, I depart from Bangkok to Singapore to Darwin. Yup, Darwin. I’ve heard entirely mixed reviews about it. I’ve met some Australians who think it’s great and that I need to make an effort to travel around in the are. I’ve met others who think I’ll just be bored. I suspect the ease with which I am capable of amusing myself might stave off any potential boredom, so I should be okay on that front.

The little bit of reading I’ve done on Darwin suggests it’s one of Australia’s most multicultural cities and serves as a gateway to Asia. Perfect for me since I’m now rather used to Asian ways of doing things that I’m going to want to ease into the Aussie way of working. I mean, how will I get by walking down the street without someone offering my a tuk-tuk ride at every two paces? I just won’t know what to do with all those extra, uninterrupted thoughts in my head when I don’t have to ward off swarms of predatory drivers.

I just realized that out of the last 24 months of my life, about 21 of them will have been spent in Asia. That’s a good while to spend on this weird and wondrous continent.

But it’s time to move on to a new continent. Australia will make it six out of a possible seven. Now when am I going to get the chance to go to Antarctica…

My Second Departure from Japan

This post marks my departure from Japan and a return to travel for me. That means that I won’t have the opportunity to waste endless hours scouring the Internet for all things photographically interesting. Instead, I will now shift back into travel writing mode (and I hope that’s at least somewhat interesting).

My upcoming plans are vague and mutable, but here’s the gist: I will be leaving Japan on July 1st and heading back to Thailand. My return ticket takes me to Bangkok where I will spend a little time photographing the city. When I first swept through the metropolis, I took a stroll up and down Khao San Road, and that was about it before heading off to other parts of Thailand (and many people have said I made a wise choice).

But, I will have at least a week or two to spend in Bangkok and/or nearby destinations inside Thailand. That may turn into a month depending on how much I’m enjoying myself.

When my Thailand fun is finished, the plan is to head down to Australia. The cheapest entry point is Darwin – one of the most Northern cites in the country. I’ve been told that there’s not much good reason to stay in Darwin, so I expect to quickly buy a ticket out of Dullsville (if that’s what it turns out to be).

But that’s where the planning ends. I mean, I don’t even have a guidebook for Australia yet. I just know that soon after arriving in the country, I will likely be putting that working holiday visa of mine to use with whatever job I can find. Prices down under are going to come as a shock to my stretched budget, so I expect to be temping/fruit picking/working construction/dreaming of a photography job/whatever work I can find sooner than later.

I aim to keep posting fun stories and adventures on a regular basis, so I hope you’ll come back and keep up with me.